I must begin this post with a little confession – I am a pack rat. I like to keep things. But sometimes you can get more enjoyment from those things by giving them away than you would get by keeping them. This is a lesson I have to re-learn every once in awhile, and one of those once-in-a-whiles was quite recently.
What is a pack rat? My definition is one who keeps things because 1) they are useful and/or 2) they have value to me. I can say I am not a hoarder because if something is of no use or has no value to me, I have no difficulty getting rid of it. So, I am not a hoarder. But I am absolutely a pack rat.
My problems start when I accept a possession as valueless to me, but presume that the item may very well have value to someone else. In that case, I am reluctant to simply add one more thing to my local landfill – I would prefer to seek out that someone who will appreciate my item so that I can pass it along.
A perfect example of this phenomenon came in the form of a little package of photographic film. An ordinary box of film is not noteworthy. (Well, in 2021 it is getting just a little noteworthy, but work with me here.) But when that ordinary little package of film’s odyssey from store to consumer to use spans a period of nearly sixty years, I think it becomes noteworthy. Let me tell you about my film and its long, strange trip.
My father always appreciated good cameras and had the income to be able to afford them. He was not abnormally skilled as a photographer, but he knew that a good camera will take a better picture than a less-good camera in the hands of the same guy. Many of his photos of the early and mid 1960s were developed as Kodachrome slides – for those not into photography, Kodachromes are known for their lucious, vibrant color and their high resistance to decay.
When my parents separated in the latter part of 1966, the existing photos stayed with my Mother, and that included the slides. Those slides were kept in a gray metal cabinet with little plastic drawers – probably designed for storage of nuts and bolts or other small items. Those plastic drawers were almost the perfect size for photographic slides.
As a child I loved looking at photographs, and would periodically page through the photo albums my mother kept. Less frequently I would pull the little cabinet full of slides out of the hall closet, where they lived with a few seldom-used board games. We had a little slide viewer with a battery-powered light bulb. One at a time I would slip those slides into the viewer and gaze into the past of a family that was no more.
The slides did not take up every drawer – some of the others were filled with the kinds of stuff accumulated by those who take pictures. Among those things were some unused flash bulbs . . .
and one little roll of film in its box. It was marked as Kodacolor X film and identified as CX 127, which I assumed was its size. That was all I knew about it.
Sometimes I would look at those flashbulbs and that box of film, but I didn’t think much about them. I got a Kodak 104 camera for Christmas of 1966 and it used a film cartridge and flashcubes. I still have the black & white shots I took that day. I was not very old but knew that flashbulbs and roll film were not the same as flashcubes and cartridge film, so the leftovers in the slide cabinet had no relevance to my life. I assumed they had been for Dad’s camera, but never actually knew. Anyway, there they stayed because nobody in the house had any use for them.
My mother gave me the slide collection when she was moving from our old home after she retired. It was in the same cabinet and still contained the film and flash bulbs I remembered. I looked at the film – I still had no idea what kind of camera used it. And besides, it could not possibly be any good in 1997 because it had expired in December of 1966. But I liked looking at those useless little items and kept them where I found them. Why did I like them? I suppose they made me nostalgic, and reminded me of the many hours I had once spent looking at family pictures and feeling happy.
As an adult I no longer made the time to look at those slides – they went into a file cabinet drawer in my basement, where they stayed for another twenty+ years. And then Covid hit.
With a pandemic raging outside, I entertained grand thoughts of clearing out the decades of flotsam that had accumulated in our basement. For some reason, my mind wandered to those slides – those would stay, of course. But that box of film and the flash bulbs – Those I had no use for.
By that time I had gotten to know Jim Grey as a friend. Jim has written a blog for far longer than I have, and one of his areas of specialty is obsolete film cameras and photography. I offered the film to Jim – I was happy that he was interested. Perhaps I had been wrong about the flash bullbs – Jim confessed that he too had some for which he had not yet found a home.
It took me awhile to assemble 1) a padded envelope and 2) time to put the film in and address it, but I finally transferred the film to Jim. I told him that it had not been stored with any special care, other than living all its life in air conditioned environments. I figured he would either find a place to set it as a knicknack, or maybe he might actually try to take some pictures with it.
My hopes were fulfilled recently when Jim posted on his blog that he had used my film and had gotten some pictures with it. On Saturdays, Jim shares links to blogs he has found interesting and has been featured this one from time to time, something for which I am grateful. Today I get to return the favor and link to Jim’s recent story of running my very, very expired film through one of his cameras and where he shared the results. Click the link and have a look at what 2021 photographs look like on 1966 film.
I now know that it would have been incredibly helpful to Jim if my parents had bought two or three rolls of film to not use, but there is nothing that can be done about that at this late date. Jim did the best he could with what I gave him to work with – and I could not be more thrilled with the results.
I now realize that I could have thought of all kinds of cool subjects he could have shot with that film, but I also realize that this would not have involved a gift of the film, but the borrowing of a photographer, his equipment and all of his experience. I am glad the little box of film was transferred with no strings attached so that Jim could use it as he wished. I did not know that 127 Day was a thing with film photographers, but I do now and cannot imagine a more appropriate use for that stray roll of Kodacolor-X.
And what a great result for me – I gave away something that took up space (if only a little) and got back something to enjoy from now on. Thank you Jim for the gift I received from you.
Photo Credits: All photos by the author, except for that of the Kodak 104 taken by Jim Grey and found online.